Dial 988 for Mental Health

Didi Hirsch and California Department of Health Care Services Sign $20 Million Investment to Expand Access to the State’s “988” Response to Mental Health Crises and Suicides

Didi Hirsch, the nation’s premier suicide prevention center and leading provider of whole-person mental health and suicide-specialized care, signed a $20 million contract with the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The funding, allocated from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Block Grant, supports the implementation of the new behavioral health hotline, 988. The new 3-digit phone number will be live on July 16, 2022, connecting Americans across the country with suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis counselors.

The DHCS $20 million investment will support California’s network of 13 local and regional crisis call centers to expand their capacity for the launch of 988, providing mental health support nationwide. Equitable access to vital services will help decrease suicide and mental health stigma. With this critical funding, additional infrastructure will be rapidly developed and deployed at California 988 crisis centers to meet significant anticipated demand when the easy-to-remember, three-digit option rolls out.  Aligned with disproportionate need, there will be a special focus on several populations: the young; Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals.

“Didi Hirsch 988 counselors will provide lifesaving health care 24/7 to those experiencing mental health or suicidal crisis. This funding augments what we can do for countless kids, adults, and families,” said Didi Hirsch’s CEO Jonathan Goldfinger, MD, MPH, FAAP. “Our goal is to both keep people alive and create easy access to quality mental health care, using the most effective suicide prevention services in the United States today. Instead of dialing 911 and risking unnecessary police involvement or hospitalization, those needing expert mental health, substance use, or suicide care in a crisis will have it nearly instantly. We’re grateful to the leadership of DHCS for their unwavering commitment to the safety of our families and communities.”

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that designated 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2020. Didi Hirsch has led much of California’s charge for 988 preparation based on years of partnering with the 13 crisis centers across the state, both public and private, which together field more than 270,000 calls a year to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Follow-up care management is also available, offered days and weeks later, depending on the severity of need. Partners include industry leaders and a broad coalition of sponsors, advocates, and bipartisan legislators who came together to champion the budding California 988 investment.

The 988 California crisis centers will start receiving calls made to 988 when the service universally goes live on July 16, 2022. Until then, anyone experiencing a suicidal crisis, emotional distress, or concerns about a family member can still reach these experts, 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255.

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